Abstract Thyroid hormones (TH) and glucocorticoids strongly contribute to the maturation of fetal tissues in the preparation for extrauterine life. Influence of maternal dexamethasone (Dx) administration on thyroid glands morpho-functional characteristics of near term rat fetuses was investigated applying unbiased stereology. On the 16th day of pregnancy dams received 1.0mg/Dx/kg/b.w., followed by 0.5mg/Dx/kg/b.w. on the 17th and 18th days of gestation. The control females received the same volume of saline. The volume of fetal thyroid was estimated using Cavalieri’s principle; the physical/fractionator design was applied for the determination of absolute number of follicular cells in mitosis and immunohistochemically labeled C cells; C cell volume was measured using the planar rotator. The functional activity of thyroid tissue was provided from thyroglobulin (Tg) and thyroperoxidase (TPO) immunohistochemical staining. Applying these design-based modern stereological methods it was shown that Dx treatment of gravid females led to a significant decrease of fetal thyroid gland volume in 19- and 21-day-old fetuses, due to decreased proliferation of follicular cells. The Tg and TPO immunohistochemistry demonstrated that intensive TH production starts and continues during the examined period in control and Dx-exposed fetuses. Under the influence of Dx the absolute number of C cells was lower in both groups of near term fetuses, although unchanged relation between the two populations of endocrine cells, follicular and C cells suggesting that structural relationships within the gland are preserved. In conclusion maternal glucocorticoid administration at the thyroid gland level exerts growth-inhibitory and maturational promoting effects in near term rat fetuses.